The National Library has partnered with the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, to showcase Shakespeare’s First Folio for the first time in Singapore. This will be held from now to 23 April at the Level 10 Gallery of the National Library Building.
The exhibition is titled “Shakespeare in Print: The First Folio”. The First Folio is the first printed anthology of 36 of William Shakespeare’s plays, many of which had never been printed before it was published as a folio in 1623.
Through this exhibit, visitors can learn more about Shakespeare’s works, life and times, and the significance of the First Folio as a rare literary artefact, without which many important works such as Macbeth and Julius Caesar may have been lost to us today. The showcase will also highlight selected theatre adaptations of Shakespeare’s works in Singapore and Asia, as well as their significance and influence on literature and other art forms across the world.
There will be a full digital version of the First Folio available for browsing through the 950 folio pages. Alongside this exhibition, Jurong Regional Library, Marine Parade Public Library and Library@Esplanade will host “#Shakespeare”, a display that turns stories from Shakespeare’s plays into tweets by key characters from plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet.
Visitors can also look forward to a public talk by Mr Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, and Professor Rhodri Lewis of the Faculty of English Language & Literature, the University of Oxford, on Sunday, 26 March 2017. They will discuss the history of the Bodleian Libraries’ two copies of the First Folio and, using Hamlet as a guide, explain how the First Folio helps us understand Shakespeare’s works. Students can participate in a free workshop on Shakespeare’s literature and theatredesigned for them.
Interesting Facts about Shakespeare’s First Folio
William Shakespeare is a great literary icon. The 400th anniversary of his death was widely commemorated in 2016. Generations of students in Singapore would have studied his works, and this collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries will allow members of the public to view this rare publication.
How do we know of Shakespeare’s plays? The answer is one book: the 1623 First Folio. Without it, 18 plays, including Macbeth and The Tempest, might have been lost.
Seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio was compiled by his friends and colleagues in the King’s Men theatre company, John Heminges and Henry Condell. Almost all his plays were collated in a folio edition and the First Folio is the earliest folio consisting of a single author’s plays.
The First Folio groups the plays into comedies, histories, and tragedies – an editorial decision that has shaped our idea of the Shakespearean canon. It includes the well-known Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare, which is significant as it has often been used as a standard for comparison for other depictions of Shakespeare.
More importantly, the First Folio preserves 18 of Shakespeare’s plays that had never been published before: All’s Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Comedy of Errors, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, 1 Henry VI, Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, King John, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Timon of Athens, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Winter’s Tale.
It is believed by researchers that 750 or fewer copies of the First Folio were printed and an estimated 230 copies have survived today.
“Shakespeare in Print: The First Folio” will be on view in the National Library, Level 10 Gallery, National Library Building from now to 23 April.